Edinburgh: J. Ruthven for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1790. First Edition. First printing. Quarto (30cm). Five volumes bound in contemporary acid-sprinkled calf, board edges and spine bands tooled in gilt, titled on leather spine labels, all edges sprinkled blue; plain endpapers; I: [xii],lxxxiv,535,pp; II: [iv],viii,718pp; III: [iv],viii,759,pp; IV: [iv],viii,695,pp; V: [iv],xiv,230,pp; 61 plates, including 3 folding maps, intaglio headpieces, and 7pp of Ethiopian languages (Ge'ez, Amharic, etc.) in vol. I. Complete, including half-titles. Generally an appealing set, lightly rubbed, with leather over joints cracking but cords generally sound (front joint of vol. V tender); two spine labels detached, on vols I and III; vol. I with tidemarks more or less throughout, other volumes clean apart from occasional scattered foxing and offsetting; f.f.e.p. of vol. I partly detached: Very Good.
James Bruce of Kinnaird (1730-1794) spent five years attempting to locate the source of the Nile. He successfully located Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile and claimed he was the first European to do so. While that claim was false (Pedro Paez, a Jesuit missionary, had reached Lake Tana in 1618), he was the first to successfully follow the Blue Nile to its confluence with the White Nile. On his return to Britain, Bruce was mocked for exaggerating stories of his travels.
This account, when finally published, "rang[ed] from striking adventure stories, reported dialogues, and Shandean asides boasting of his success with African women throuhg a pedantic history of ancient Ethiopia...to vivid sketches of contemporary Abyssinian life, politics, and natural history. It was immensely succesful," though Bruce's reputation for exaggeration never quite dissipated (ODNB). ESTC T51608. HOWGEGO B171.